Oropharyngeal dysphagia, or difficulty in swallowing, is a major health problem that can lead to serious complications, such as pulmonary aspiration, malnutrition, dehydration, and pneumonia. The current clinical management of oropharyngeal dysphagia mainly focuses on compensatory strategies and swallowing exercises/maneuvers; however, studies have suggested their limited effectiveness for recovering swallowing physiology and for promoting neuroplasticity in swallowing-related neuronal networks. Several new and innovative strategies based on neurostimulation in peripheral and cortical swallowing-related regions have been investigated, and appear promising for the management of oropharyngeal dysphagia. The peripheral chemical neurostimulation strategy is one of the innovative strategies, and targets chemosensory ion channels expressed in peripheral swallowing-related regions. A considerable number of animal and human studies, including randomized clinical trials in patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia, have reported improvements in the efficacy, safety, and physiology of swallowing using this strategy. There is also evidence that neuroplasticity is promoted in swallowing-related neuronal networks with this strategy. The targeting of chemosensory ion channels in peripheral swallowing-related regions may therefore be a promising pharmacological treatment strategy for the management of oropharyngeal dysphagia. In this review, we focus on this strategy, including its possible neurophysiological and molecular mechanisms.
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